We had the good fortune of connecting with Matt Iaconis and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Matt, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
My goal in starting brick & mortar was to showcase California through our lens. Alexis and I love bright and textured wines that are lower in alcohol so that is what we produce. Back in 2011, this style of wine was less common than it is today and even back then, we knew that we weren’t the only people that preferred a fresher take on Napa Valley, a fresher take on California wine.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
We started brick & mortar when I was 25 years old. I had no money. I had no “plan” or path. But what I did have was a passion.
My background is unlike most people in the wine industry. I’m not a second or third generation winemaker. I grew up being fascinated with space and the sky in general. Coupled with the fact math was the one subject that came naturally to me, I went to school to be an aeronautical engineer with the goal of becoming an astronaut. While double majoring in Atmospheric Sciences (a cool phrase for weather), I realized how little I truly loved what I was doing.
I attended UC Davis to play football. Given that I grew up in Sacramento, it was close enough to my home that my family, most importantly, my grandma, could come watch me play. During the spring quarter of my third year in school, I had to take an elective and only one class fit the insane schedule of a double majoring college athlete: VEN 3 – Intro to Winemaking. I agree to the suggestion by my Student-Athletic Advisor simply on the premise that I could be a bit smarter about wine when it came to the dinner table. Little did I know, that decision would change my life.
Fast forward a bit, I graduated from UC Davis with a degree in Viticulture and Enology. Obviously, I got lucky to find what I loved to do in college – and obviously, I was fortunate to go to one of the better wine schools around. From there, I travelled a lot: making wine in New Zealand and Australia; spent time in Italy and France visiting wineries and learning. Coming home in 2011 from working in Australia, I was looking for a full-time job – not to start a winery. After I was past over for a few jobs on the basis I didn’t have enough experience for the position, I decided to make my own wine. I knew enough to make the wine, and the first wines we made were great, scored well and are still some of my favorite wines I’ve made. That said, I knew nothing about the wine business – but, my passion for wine and my ability to adapt (and a few phenomenal mentors), created the foundation to build each year and create what brick & mortar is today.
Lesson learned abound in the early days! We’re always looked at mistakes and lessons learned as opportunities to grow, individually and as a company. Being able to recognize the mistakes, accept the outcome and learn from the experience is what has made us successful today.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
As a Dodger fan, let’s assume there’s a game in town!
Our favorite breakfast spot is definitely Gjusta. As plant-based eaters, it’s hard to beat. Plus, who doesn’t love eating breakfast in Venice.
For lunch, Republique is a huge favorite. I feel like every time I’m in LA for market work, we eat lunch here. Outside of the fantastic vibe inside, I love the food and the wine selection is outstanding.
Drinks is a toss up between Everson Royce Bar and Bar Covell. Bar Covell for wine and Everson Royce Bar for everything else.
Dinner is two-fold: a place I’ve been and a place I can’t wait to visit. A place I’ve been: Bicylcette – phenomenal French-inspired menu. A place I can’t wait to visit: The Yangban Society. Soon to be opened by two friends from The Restaurant at Meadowood, it will be my first dinner stop upon opening!
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Two people come to mind.
1) Obviously, my wife. She is smarter in the world of wine than I’ll ever be. As an Advanced Sommelier in the CMS, she’s brilliant in wine. She’s also my sounding board for new ideas or styles and is so great at feeding my creative on the good ideas or shutting me down on ideas that don’t have a place in what we do. Not to mention, she is a great wife and mother of our four kids (plus our crazy dog, Jim) and she pulls it all off effortlessly.
2) As much as he won’t acknowledge it, Nate Weis (VP of Winegrowing at Silver Oak). I’ve known Nate since 2010 – when he convinced me to leave a job at a fancy Napa Valley winery to work for him (not Silver Oak at the time). He’s been my go-to guy since Day One for brick & mortar, always answering my every question – and letting my know which were stupid ones, telling I should think for myself and figure it out. Nate is a great guy and I owe him a lot.